Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 61, Issue 10, pp 1491–1509 | Cite as

Air temperature feedback and its contribution to global warming

  • Xiaoming Hu
  • Ming Cai
  • Song YangEmail author
  • Sergio A. Sejas
Research Paper


Air temperature feedback results from the thermal-radiative coupling between the atmosphere and the surface and plays an important role in surface energy balance. This paper reveals the contribution of air temperature feedback to the global warming from 1980 to 2000. The air temperature feedback kernel, evaluated using the ERA-Interim reanalysis data, is used to discuss the physical mechanism for air temperature feedback, the dependency of the strength of air temperature feedback on the climatological spatial distributions of air temperature, water vapor and cloud content, and the contributions of air temperature feedback to rapid global warming. The coupling between temperature feedback and each of the external forcings and individual feedback processes will amplify the anomaly of direct energy flux convergence at the surface induced by the external forcings and individual processes. The air temperature feedback amplifies the initial surface warming due to the increase in CO2 concentration, ice and snow melting, increase in water vapor, and change in ocean heat storage. It also amplifies the surface warming due to the longwave radiaitve forcing associated with the increase in cloud cover, which acts to suppress the cooling of the shortwave effect of cloud forcing. Overall, temperature feedback plays an important role in the global warming from 1980 to 2000, as the net positive contribution to the perturbation of global mean energy flux at the surface from the air temperature feedback is larger than the net negative contribution from external forcing and all non-temperature feedbacks.


Global warming Air temperature feedback Surface energy budget 


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This study was supported by the National Key Scientific Research Plan of China (Grant No. 2014CB953900), the Natural Science Foundation of Guangdong Province (Grant No. 2017A030310571), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (Grant No. 17LGPY21).


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaoming Hu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ming Cai
    • 3
  • Song Yang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  • Sergio A. Sejas
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Atmospheric SciencesSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Guangdong Province Key Laboratory for Climate Change and Natural Disaster StudiesGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric SciencesFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  4. 4.Institute of Earth Climate and Environment SystemSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina
  5. 5.NASA Langley Research CenterClimate Science BranchHamptonUSA

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